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The Toxic Nature of a Meritocracy

And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?”  1 Sam. 6:20

Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?  Who can be in front of Him naked and unashamed after Adam and Eve’s violation of His Law?  Only perfect, unwaivering, purely motivated obedience allows for life to be sustained in the presence of the Holy God.  Who then can stand?

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?Romans 1:28-32, 2:1-3

The answer is that nobody, no not even one, can stand before a holy God by his or her own efforts or sense of self-righteousness.  Even our charity is tainted with selfishness, even our kindness to others can be motivated by what we get from that relationship.  We show favoritism toward those who offer us something we are lacking and either totally ignore or even detest those with whom we disagree or find offensive to our goals and purposes.  We, I, constantly pass judgment on others for the way they respond to a situation or do their jobs or don’t do their jobs or continue in bad habits that we ourselves don’t struggle with at this time.

It is evident when I have once again developed Gospel amnesia because my patience is thin and my intolerance is thick, my compassion is deteriorated and my condemnation is dominant, my affection for others is absent while my anger  places them on a fragile trip wire where at any moment I might punish them with my words, glares, silence or tantrum.  I return to living by merit when my heart is gripped by Gospel amnesia, forgetting that it is by grace alone I have been saved and not by any “good works” of my own, that it is by grace alone that I am secure in the love and affection and blessing of God regardless of my nasty attitude, poorly chosen words, unfulfilled obligations and other offensiveness.  And when I start riding the highs and lows, mostly lows, of living by the merit of my accomplishments, productivity, generosity toward others in action and attitude, talents and credits, I demand that others do as well.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Matt. 12:34

The Pharisees were called sons of their father, the Serpent.  In Genesis, when the promise of the work of Grace was announced, it was to the offspring of the woman and referenced the offspring of the serpent.  Gospel amnesia creates a strong pull toward the perspective of the Pharisees, disbelieving God’s word that only through the completed work of the seed of the woman, Jesus, could man be righteous and free from judgment.  My heart often just doesn’t agree and thinks my own work is praiseworthy.  Conversely, I have quite a lot to say about the shortcomings of others, how they aren’t doing it right/well/to my high standards…which are never as high as God’s.  Requiring others to attain a perfection that God has said is impossible offers only a death sentence.  When the nature of my conversation, words and attitudes is characterized by criticism of others, distrust of others, disdain for others and general judgement of others, what is being exposed is not my superiority as I have come to believe in that moment, but my viper’s heart.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus  the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free  from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:1-4

Even my viper’s heart is no match for His grace.  His grace is sufficient for me for His power is made perfect in my weakness.  And I must extend this same grace to others.  He has freed me from the just judgement of the Law so I cannot demand others meet standards that only Jesus can.  It is impossible for me to love generously until I realize I have been generously loved.  I cannot overflow with grace, mercy and love if it has not overcome me.  Where I recognize its absence, may I be drawn back into His embrace, drinking deeply of His unreasonable generosity towards me so that I may respond with unmerited generosity toward others.  Just as His kindness leads us to repentance, it is this life breathed in through Grace  that multiplies life in the place of death brought from judgment.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

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